No matter how relaxing your impromptu yoga session is each morning, the moment you walk into work and see your co-workers buried under mountains of paperwork, your stress level rises instantaneously. Why? Because other people’s stress is contagious.
Have you ever felt anxious after binge-watching an extremely dramatic show on Netflix? Have you ever attended a playoff game when a team was seconds from winning? Well, being surrounded by shouting or booing spectators who are spilling beer everywhere in the heat of the moment can cause you extreme stress, regardless if it’s “your team” playing.
According to Michelle Gielan, the author of Broadcasting Happiness, catching stress is just like catching a cold.The reason we are so affected by “secondhand stress” is because human beings are empathetic by nature. “Seeing someone else in a stressed state can impact our own hormonal and nervous system responses as if we were experiencing their stress firsthand,” according to Heidi Hanna, Ph.D., a Fellow at the American Institute of Stress and author of Stressaholic.
You can “catch” stress from anyone, even a stranger. However, you will be subject to more intense stress when there’s a stronger emotional relationship with the stressor.
A study conducted by Gielan revealed that people who watched just three minutes of negative news stories in the morning were 27% more likely to claim their days were “unhappy” six to eight hours later compared to the people who watched positive stories. Negative TV can cause real and negative emotional impacts.
The effects of secondhand stress are actually about the same as chronic stress. Unmanaged stress has been linked to major diseases and disorders such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and dementia. Not to mention, stress makes you feel gross. “When stress continues to be a problem, we feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and burnt out,” Hanna says.
If you’re feeling burnt out, here are a few tips to keep you immune to the inevitable stress of life:
1. Say Hello
Just say hi to your co-workers, even if you’re not particularly a fan of them. According to Gielan, just initiating a social interaction with someone sends a positive message to your brain which will boost your mood.
2. Check Yo-self
Make sure you are not sending negative vibes to people, causing them stress. Stop leaving passive aggressive post-it messages and typing emails in all caps. Make sure you’re not letting your frustrations out on innocent co-workers and friends.
3. Be A Morning Person
Despite how tempting it is to let yourself operate on caffeine and hatred, you’re destined to burn out eventually. Gielan’s findings revealed that working out for 30 minutes every morning is proven to have beneficial brain effects and mood-boosting capabilities.
4. Have Dates With Yourself
No one knows you like you know yourself. You’re the only one who know what you really want, what you’re thinking, and all of your odd little quirks. That’s why it’s important to set a time for yourself, in a place where you can do whatever the hell you want for a little bit every day. These self-recharge dates are just as important as any work-related meetings because they are essential to your health.
5. Avoid Quadruple Tasking
Try to give every activity or task your complete attention. You’ll be able to give each task the detail and attention it needs. When you limit distractions like ringtones, tv, email updates, you are less likely to get stressed and feel overwhelmed.
6. Kindly Confront What Bothers You
Communication is crucial. If there’s one person in your life who is seriously bringing you down, it may be worth having a chat—as long as you have a solid relationship with that person, Gielan says. Think about how well you know each other, and how they might feel or react. And before you decide to bring up this conversation, remind yourself to be compassionate and understanding.